Review: The idea behind the Padlock is simple, but it works: Lock down data by controlling the device itself.
The idea behind Corsairs Padlock USB storage device seems obvious: Find a way to control access to sensitive data by controlling the device itself rather than depending on special software.
In eWEEK Labs testing, the low-cost Corsair Padlock was easy to use, secure and worked with most of the computers youre likely to need it to work with.
The Padlock, available in 1GB ($30) and 2GB ($40) versions, works through the use of a keypad on the device itself. Once you enter a PIN, the device cant be accessed at all until the PIN is entered again.
The device is about the same size as a package of chewing gum, and a numeric keypad is installed on one side. There is also a button with a key symbol and three LEDs. You store a PIN code, which can be up to 10 digits long, by pressing the "Key" button, entering the number and pressing the button again. You confirm the entry by doing all of this a second time.
You use the Padlock like youd use any other USB memory device. The difference is that the computers operating system cant actually see the memory until you enter the PIN code. You have the choice of entering the PIN youve chosen just before plugging the Padlock into a USB port or just afterward. Corsair has included a short USB cable, which makes reaching the keypad easier.
Either way, once the correct code is entered, the Corsair Padlock acts just like any other USB memory device.
Its worth noting that while the five keys on the keypad are numbered 0 through 9, in reality those numbers are just to make it possible to enter a number that you can remember. Each pair of numbers (0 and 1, or 2 and 3 for example) are really the same, so in reality there are only five possible choices.
Still, since you can enter as many as 10 digits, its possible to make access to the data fairly secure. And you arent restricted to using any specific number or combination of numbers, so guessing the correct combination is highly unlikely. Prospective buyers should note, however, that the number you enter isnt an encryption key, so the data on the Padlock is stored in the clear. This means that if someone does guess the numberfor example, if you use something obvious like your phone numberhe or she will have access to whatever youve placed on the memory device.
The only challenge to using the Corsair Padlock is in entering the number when you create your PIN, and thats not much of a challenge since the instructions are quite clear. Once thats done, its just a matter of entering the PIN again to use the Padlock.
Corsair officials say that the Padlock can be used by computers running Windows XP or Windows Vista, as well as by machines running Mac OS. I was able to confirm that it works fine with both versions of Windows. I was also able to confirm that the Padlock works fine with SUSE Linux 9.3, despite the fact that this isnt officially supported.
The only real drawback to the Padlock, if you can call it that, is that youll have to use another product for encryption if your IT department requires it.
Its available through resellers and distributors. The company provides a three-year warranty and has a PIN registration service so that you can recover lost access codes.
Technical Analyst Wayne Rash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.